As our nation and local school districts debate whether or not to arm teachers and other school staff, there has been a lot of passion on both sides of the issue. The reasoning for arming school teachers is fairly straightforward – response time.
Most school shootings are over in two to five minutes, while one person is shot every 17 seconds. Depending on the location of the school and its proximity to the authorities, law enforcement response times can vary from a few minutes to twenty minutes, or more.
Some schools have already made the decision whether or not to arm their teachers, while other districts continue to weigh the issue. Much of the discussion has focused on what to do before a weapon is discharged, either by a shooter or teacher.
Hardening schools from potential attacks, thoroughly training teachers on firearms use and safety (if they are armed) and proper walk-throughs and training exercises are all part of pre-discharge preparedness.
While the decision to arm teachers should be left to local authorities and lawmakers, we must address an important question missing from the debate: if you do arm teachers, how do you prepare for what happens after a gun is discharged?
First, are teachers and school staff adequately trained in trauma care? As noted, most of the casualties in a school shooting occur within the first few minutes. While it can take law enforcement vital minutes to respond, EMTs take longer, as they cannot be cleared to enter an active shooter environment until law enforcement declares it safe. Just as gun safety is important, teachers must also get basic trauma care training to help sustain lives until first responders arrive on scene.
Second, how do arriving police discern “good guy” from “bad guy?” Friendly fire in a school shooting would only add to the tragedy. To prevent this, all armed staff should be made known to local law enforcement — not just in photos, but also in person. Let law enforcement train and walk the halls with teachers and school staff. They must coordinate how they would communicate on scene in an active shooter situation. Teachers should have emergency vests by their desks they could put on to distinguish themselves from a shooter.
Finally, what happens to the actual bullet when one is discharged? Bullets that miss their intended targets can penetrate surfaces or ricochet, causing harm to unintended targets. So the type of bullet used is an important part of the safety equation.
There are three primary types of bullets:
1. Full metal jacket bullets: used primarily for training purposes, these provide the strongest penetration power, and are therefore unsuited for school shooter situations, as a miss could go through an obstacle and strike an unintended target.
2. Hollow point bullets: used as standard duty ammunition for law enforcement, these are slightly less risky, as they have reduced penetration properties, while still providing enough power to stop a target.
3. Frangible bullets: these are engineered to disintegrate upon impact with hard surfaces like concrete blocks, tile floors and lockers, common to most schools. Their design greatly reduces the likelihood of a bystander being killed or injured by a ricochet, and are in use by the Texas School Marshals program.
As the larger gun debate continues in our nation, as well as the debate to arm teachers, let’s be sure to ask the right questions. If teachers are to be armed, let us take the necessary steps to maximize safety and reduce risk to the people we are trying to protect in the first place.
Brandon Graves is CEO of SinterFire and an expert in gun and ammunition safety.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.